That’s it then. 812km in 32 days. That includes a few kilometres for getting lost at times, walking around looking for a room, etc. as well as lower distances for shortcuts on a couple of roads and around the town of Boo. What’s next?
Before I get too reflective, I should talk about the final 10km. It was the easiest, most casual walk we have done in the month. Our bags magically are weightless by now. We don’t really notice them.
We started at 6:30am to see if we could catch up to our friends so the dawn was cool and perfect for walking. We walked through the neighbourhood of Villamayor and passed the grounds of the television station as well as the camper van park. In no time at all, we were also passing the massive property of the Monte do Gozo Albergue that can accommodate more than 400 pilgrims. While we saw a good number of pilgrims today, fortunately that albergue wasn’t anywhere near capacity.
A surprising number of pilgrims passed us walking away from Santiago. Some may have been walking home but I assume most were using the early morning to walk to the airport for their flights homeward. It’s amazing to think “after walking 800km, why would I need a taxi when the airport is only 12km from the Cathedral?” but that is how pilgrims think.
Crossing over the highways and rail lines, I remembered our first time coming this way. Then, I was looking for the cathedral spires after every twist in the road. My impatience made the walk seem longer. This time, I just kept thinking, yes, I remember this store, this park, this street, this fountain, this bridge, etc. When we crossed the road to enter the old city, the excitement got higher and higher. We stopped though for some breakfast and a pause in case our friends were behind us still. We had our first churros of the month in Spain and they were excellent.
Through the old city, the walk was like visiting our childhood neighbourhood. We have walked these streets enough to get all nostalgic, “remember this restaurant where we met the …”, “hey, here is the store where we bought…” and “oh, wow, remember this church where the priest…”.
Minutes later, there was the Cathedral. The front is still mostly draped in scaffolding for the ongoing renovations and cleaning. It does detract from the ambiance but it’s needed. The Plaza de Obradoiro in front was surprisingly empty this Sunday morning but we assumed that Pilgrims were either in mass or had not yet arrived. We went down to the Pilgrim office to get our Compostela and found Bart and Janek there, having just received theirs. Those guys had changed plans this morning and left early so we were looking the wrong way for them. That’s okay though, we had churros.
After a quick trip to the hotel to drop off our bags, we headed back to the Cathedral and caught the end of the earlier mass. Our strategy worked great as while mass was going on, we could visit the crypt of St. James and hug his statue behind the main alter, without having to queue more than a minute. We also got to see the botafumeiro swing at that mass although I spent part of that time asking people to sit back down, as instructed by security. I know that everyone was warned ahead of mass that the use of cameras, videos and cell phones is strictly forbidden but it is a laugh when 99% of the attendees film the botafumeiro swinging. Really? With a million identical versions available on YouTube, people still think it is better to experience this spectacular event through a viewfinder just so that they can relive “their” version. People can be funny.
That said, after mass, we headed straight for a pew near he front to wait for the noon pilgrim mass to start. We wanted a good seat to see the botafumeiro. :D. Fr. Bart was going to be a concelebrant and we wanted to be ready to stand and shout every time he spoke. Luckily, we did get to experience the botafumeiro a second time today but some wacky tour guide started getting everyone to applaud after it finished. That was classless enough for the main celebrant to gently scold the congregation in Spanish with “I will take it that the applause was for God and not the botafumeiro.” I had to laugh.
After mass, all the friends were gathered up and we had a final lunch and later dinner with them all. We will miss them. A lot.
On reflection, while resting before dinner, I was thinking. Time occasionally treats us well. I will soon forget the burning blisters, the tired legs, the bitter cold, the whipping wind, the scorching sun and the stinging rain. Like a woman having given birth, I will soon forget the pain and remember only the good.
But time can also be mean to us. As I get older, I also know that I will forget the names. Later, I will even forget the faces and probably the stories, the jokes and the experiences that we shared. But when I am old, and I am feeling the ridges of my Santiago shell between my fingers, rubbing it nearly smooth, I will never forget that the shell represents the joy I have had, walking not just this Camino but the others as well. I will remember the happiness I felt, but maybe not the reason being that during almost 3,800km of trails so far, we have had truly amazing experiences and met some of the most beautiful, giving and caring people. Fellow pilgrims, not our legs, make these Caminos.
Thank you Melanie, for sharing another great Camino together. We do these walks with each other but our best walk is the one that we have done, hand in hand, over the past 28 years.
The view outside our hotel window if I lean out the window, on my side, with Melanie holding my legs.